April 9, 2014
There was mixed reaction today from environmental advocates following a couple of recent decisions by a federal judge regarding New England's groundfishing industry. The decisions - issued Friday by U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg - were in response to two lawsuits introduced last year by the Conservation Law Foundation, or CLF, and Earthjustice - both environmental law firms. Greg Cunningham is a senior attorney with the CLF. He says one of Judge Boasberg's rulings upholds a federal law designed to prevent overfishing of New England cod, haddock, flounders and other groundfish.
"Our goal is to achieve rebuilding of those stocks that are currently overfished and to avoid overfishing of stocks that aren't at this juncture," Cunningham says.
The judge ruled that regulators at the National Marine Fisheries Service were effectively allowing harvesters to potentially exceed their scientifically-recommended catch limits by adding on a so-called "carry-over" quota of uncaught fish from the previous year.
In his ruling, Judge Boasberg said this procedure "resulted in catch limits above the statutorily permissable levels."
Greg Cunningham agrees. "We are pleased that the court found that that, indeed, was violative of federal law, and we think that the results will be that our stocks will more readily rebound if appropriate limitations are placed on the quantities of fish that are caught," he says.
The industry, however, regarded the carry-ver measure - known as Framework 50 of the Northeast Fishery Management Plan - as a useful way of giving fishermen more flexibility at a time when they're under considerable economic pressure.
Pat Fiorelli is spokesperson with the New England Fishery Management Council, which supported the measure.
"The council's rationale was that it would be convenient for fishermen, because fishermen like to use - and want to use - all their days, because as you know, especially in the groundfish industry - and that's what we're talking about here - fishermen are struggling," Fiorelli says.